This winter, Lisa and Helene took a road trip to the America’s Mart in Atlanta, and got an eyeful of the most vibrant and trend-setting home goods, gift ideas and fashion being created and marketed right now. As innovative and inspirational as the merchandise was—and it was—Lisa and Helene couldn’t help but feel that the women behind the designs were the real story. Booth after booth, they met and spoke with women following their passions and creating a living by living their best life. Once home, they were inspired by the artists, designers and entrepreneurs they met, and the stories of how they grew the seeds of an idea into viable businesses. Once home, they realized that many of their own customers and friends were also soaring…..
Rally Beads salutes the women who inspire others. Women who said “maybe I can do this”, persisted, fell and got up, did more with less and dared to follow a dream. Rally Beads was started in the same way, and with these women in mind….our stones, strung together with love and with purpose are made for the journey, a harbinger of the good to come and a reminder to never, ever, ever give up!
We welcome stories of courage and conviction, daring and divinity—tell us about the women who inspire you and we will feature them here in our Celebrate Women's Achievements series.
~ wearing Labradorite, a stone that stimulates creativity, imagination and new ideas
Andrea Mihalik is bent over a garish gold cane-back chair, something from a basement rec room circa 1975 maybe, a small pick hammer in one hand, a screw driver in the other. She has big plans for this chair—a glance around the studio and the chairs that mingle about; brocade and silk, with glossy legs and graceful details—and you know it will in good company. A graduate of Tyler School of Art, Andrea is a seasoned big-city photographer, a wife and mother of three, with an eye for composition and a hand for craft. She channeled her artistry into her career, but as photography became digitalized, it no longer required her to be hands-on in the darkroom. At the same time, her children were getting bigger and her artistic life was put on hold. “It was a ten years hiatus,” she said. Always a runner, Andrea got in the habit of rescuing old chairs and stools curbside along her early morning route, filling her garage and her imagination with future projects. “I should do this myself” she thought. And one day she did.
About seven years ago, her husband, hoping to clear the garage, gave her a book on upholstery for Christmas; and she stayed up that night reading; the physicality of hand-tying a chair, the color and texture of fabrics, the satisfaction of a finished product—using old-world techniques that honor the history of the chair itself, giving it new life and a future. The frames of forgotten chairs she had collected held immeasurable promise—she could see it, and she wanted to make it happen.
The author of her book taught upholstery in New York City. After Andrea finished the class, she secured an internship at BDDW, a small furniture manufacturer in Philadelphia. “I was a 43 year old intern,” she laughed. Four months later she was ready to fly—her first project was a set of dining room chairs. “They were easy,” she said. And she began to work her way through the salvaged frames in her garage—eventually moving to a studio in Philadelphia. Wild Chairy was born—and like her children-quickly grew. Andrea’s chairs—reflect her artistic eye, love of color and hand-on craftsmanship and have been placed in homes and offices across the country. She has moved on to larger pieces and larger projects—now working on designing the rooms that house her chairs. “The road keeps opening up before me,” she said. “I am twisting and turning with it.”
Her studio is a loft in an industrial building full of other artists—in a tired and somewhat broken section of Philadelphia. Out her window, as she works, she sees the vibrancy of the neighborhood—people coming and going in the dignity of everyday life. Chairs are humble objects—utilitarian and easy to overlook. But in them she sees beauty and with her hands, transforms them. “Here, I am inspired every day.”